Every living person, regardless whether Muslim or not, is well aware that the manners of eating are an essential part of their life and huge part of their character. As we are all aware, eating plays a large part of our lives and can have a massive effect on our lifestyle, health and overall appearance too!
For us as Muslims however, Allah (swt) has given us through his messenger a flawless example of how one should eat, and the mannerisms involved in eating. A few among these would be saying ‘Bismillah’ before starting to eat and to say ‘Alhamdulilah’ when you’re done. Washing your hands before and after each meal. Eating what is in front or nearer to you and always using your right hand.
There is great hikma, benefit & initiative behind these manners, many of them have even been scientifically proven to be healthier and minimize health risks. But setting the health gains aside, we as Muslims also win much religious reward when eating in this manner with the intention to do so as a sunnah, because our blessed prophet Muhammad (saaws) did so and he (saaws) told us that any action done with this intention in mind then becomes an act of worship, earning reward.
So below are a selected majority to bare in mind next time you are enjoying your meal
Always say Bismillah (In the name of Allah)
The noble prophet Muhammad saaws used to always use his right hand when eating and advised others to do the same.
It was narrated from Umm Kalthoom from ‘Aa’ishah (may Allaah be pleased with her) that the Messenger of Allaah (peace and blessings of Allaah be upon him) said: “When any one of you eats, let him mention the name of Allaah. If he forgets to mention the name of Allaah at the beginning, then let him say ‘Bismillaahi awwalahu wa aakhirahu (In the name of Allaah at the beginning and at the end).’”
(Narrated by al-Tirmidhi, 1858; Abu Dawood, 3767; Ibn Maajah, 3264. Classed as saheeh by al-Albaani in Saheeh Sunan Abi Dawood, 3202).
It was narrated that a hypocrite was once eating with his left hand and when the Prophet (pbuh) saw him he advised him to eat with his right. Upon hearing this the man had falsely said ‘But I cannot’ to which the noble Prophet had said ‘May it be so’ and as the prophet (pbuh) had said, the hypocrite was indeed no longer able to lift or make use of his right hand again.
The companions of the Prophet followed his example in stressing the use of the right hand while eating. Omar (ra) was Khalifa when he saw a man eating with his left hand and similarly advised him to eat with his right. The man answered ‘My right is busy’ Omar repeated his request and the man repeated his answer. Omar asked him ‘What is it busy with?’ The man answered that it had been severed in one of the battles. Omar (ra) blamed himself for neglecting such handicap and ordered the treasurer to provide the man with a servant to help him.
If eating with your hand, use three fingers with small bites
When eating with our right hands, we should use three fingers with small bites, the 3 fingers being your thumb, index finger and middle finger. We should be able to lift the food gently with ease to our mouths. It is advised to chew our food well before swallowing and to eat at a slow balanced pace allowing the food to transfer into your stomach with ease. Eating in haste causes heart burn and indigestion.
Close your mouth while eating to avoid unnecessary noises.
No one appreciates, slurping or load chewing noises etc while having their meal, closing the mouth while eating minimizes the sound effects and also prevents anyone being put off their food while seeing yours in your mouth.
Eat all together at the table
It is preferred that a family doesn’t eat individually at different times but should eat all together at the same time. To eat on the floor is nearer to what the Prophet used to do. However, there is no problem to eat at a table. Imam Ghazali said, ‘To eat at a table is to make eating easier and there is nothing against that.’ We should not start eating ahead of the elders/parents/grandparents. If you are the elder, do not commence eating before everyone is at the table.
It is preferred that eating should not be conducted in silence.
It is good manners to talk during meals. Families should enjoy this time and use it to catch up with each other and maybe speak of their day. Topics should be nice stories suitable for eating and not anything haram. In some countries and cultures guests are offered to wash their hands on a mobile traditional brass hand wash basin that is used before and after meal times, many Moroccans still use this to this day so if hands are to be washed, the elder or the noble should be asked to proceed first, in most cases these days this tends to be the father, husband or head of the family, but if it is for guests then we should start with the most senior
At the end of a meal, thank Allah
In the Hadith reported by Abo Dawood and Nasa’i in ‘the deeds of day and night.’ We must complete our meal with the dua/prayer:
“All praise be to Allah who fed us and provided us with drink and made us from among the Muslims.”
Or you may also say:
‘All praise is for Allaah who fed me this and provided it for me without any might nor power from myself.’
Do not express your disapproval or dislike of certain foods.
Either eat the food given to you or pass it over quietly. Abu Huraira reported that ‘the Prophet (saws) never expressed his dislike of a food. If he liked it he will eat it. If he disliked it, he will set it aside.’ These days food is presented in separate dishes in the middle of the table for others to serve what they please but if for some reason you happened to be invited out for dinner and you were served individually or in some cases in one big platter as they do in Morocco, you may try to either eat around it or just leave what you disliked. If asked by the host whether you found it distasteful then rather than saying you didn’t like it you may say you are not used to this type of food.
Make Dua or a Prayer for your host when invited out for a meal.
It is very appropriate to make a prayer for your hosts upon completion of a meal. As it is reported by Muslim that Al-Migdad ibn Al-Aswad reported that the Prophet (saaws) used to say, ‘May Allah feed those who have fed us, and provide drinks to those who provided us with it.’ You can also say:
‘O Allaah, bless for them, that which You have provided them, forgive them and have mercy upon them.’
Hastening to eat when food is brought by the host.
Part of honouring one’s guest is to hasten to offer him something, and part of the guest’s honouring the host is to hasten to accept his food and eat from it. If the host sees the guest not eating, he may think badly of him. So the guest has to reassure his hosts by hastening to eat his food, because that will reassure him.
Do not serve yourself more than what you can eat.
Leftovers could be thrown away; this should be avoided as food must not be wasted. Put smaller portions twice rather than one large portion that you will not eat. The Prophet did not approve of leaving any food in a plate since he said ‘You don’t know which portion is blessed’. Food is a blessing of Allah, to misuse it is contrary to Islam. Do not forget the poor and the needy that do not have the portion you are throwing away.
Sharing and offering others the best of what you have
The etiquette of eating also includes: eating with others be it friends, family or shared tenants; not keeping a particular food to oneself unless there is a reason for that, such as it being for medicinal purposes – we should offer the best food to others first, such as good pieces of meat and soft or good bread. If the guest has had enough and stops eating, his host should say, “Eat!” and repeat it, so long as he does not think that his guest has had enough, but he should not repeat it more than three times (like we do in Moroccan culture lol).
Eat from what is directly in front of you.
It is Sunnah for a person to eat from the food that is directly in front of him, and not reach out to take food that is directly in front of others, or from the middle of the platter, because the Prophet (peace and blessings of Allaah be upon him) said to ‘Umar ibn Abi Salamah, “O young boy, say Bismillaah, eat with your right hand, and eat from what is directly in front of you.”
(Narrated by al-Bukhaari, 3576; Muslim, 2022).
Ibn ‘Abbaas narrated that the Prophet (peace and blessings of Allaah be upon him) said: “The blessing descends in the middle of the food, so eat from the edges and do not eat from the middle.”
(Narrated by al-Tirmidhi, 1805; Ibn Maajah, 3277. Classed as saheeh by al-Albaani in Saheeh al-Jaami’, 829).
Do not eat to your full
Part of the etiquette of eating is moderation in eating and not filling the stomach. The most that a Muslim is permitted to do in this regard is to divide his stomach into three thirds: one-third for food, one-third for drink and one-third for air. “A man does not fill any vessel worse than his stomach. It is sufficient for the son of Adam to eat enough to keep him alive. But if he must do that, then one-third for his food, one-third for his drink and one-third for his air.” (Narrated by al-Tirmidhi, 2380; Ibn Maajah, 3349; classed as saheeh by al-Albaani in Saheeh al-Tirmidhi, 1939).
This keeps the body healthy and light, because eating one’s fill makes the body heavy, which leads to laziness in worship and work. One-third is defined as being one-third of that which would make you feel full.
Do not eat from gold and silver
Avoiding eating and drinking from vessels of gold and silver, because that is haraam. The Prophet (peace and blessings of Allaah be upon him) said: “Do not wear silk or brocade, and do not drink from vessels of gold and silver, or eat from plates thereof. They are for them in this world and for us in the Hereafter.”
(Narrated by al-Bukhaari, 5426; Muslim, 2067)
And Allaah knows best.
Do not be wasteful with food
There are many things you can do with leftovers
-Eat it again as it is the next day for lunch
-Eat it again in a different form or re invented or with additional ingredients
-Freeze it if it is freezable
-Give it to your neighbors presented nicely
-Drive it over to family or friends who live alone
Washing hands before and after food
The Sunnah may be done by washing with water only. Ibn Raslaan said: But it is better to wash the hands with potash or soap or something similar so that grease or sweet remains can be removed easily and more thoroughly. See Tuhfat al-Ahwadhi, 5/485.
So washing the hands is mustahabb (recommended) both before and after eating, even if a person has wudoo.
Rinsing the mouth after eating.
After eating we should clean between our teeth and be careful not to swallow any bits of food that we have removed. It is mustahabb to rinse the mouth after eating, because Basheer ibn Yassaar narrated that Suwayd ibn al-Nu’maan told him that they were with the Prophet (peace and blessings of Allaah be upon him) in al-Sahba’ – which is some distance from Khaybar – and the time for prayer came. He called for food, but he did not find anything but some saweeq (barley mush). So he ate some and we all ate with him. Then he called for water and rinsed out his mouth, and then he prayed, and we prayed, and he did not do wudoo’.
(Narrated by al-Bukhaari, 5390).